DePaul Blue Demons vs. California Golden Bears – Saturday, December 23, 2006 – 1:00 p.m. CST – Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Illinois
Comcast SportsNet West (DirectTV channel 656) will be televising the game live. Note: Comcast SportsNet Chicago will be airing the game on tape delay at 4:30 p.m. CST.
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Cal makes their first trip east of the Pacific Time Zone Saturday when they face DePaul. Cal comes off of a 84-50 win over Furman on Tuesday, their first game back in 10 days for their finals exam break. Star freshman Ryan Anderson led Cal with 23 points and seven rebounds. However, the big story from the game was that center DeVon Hardin broke his foot and will be out for at least two months. That is a huge loss at a position that the Golden Bears could least afford to lose. DePaul beat Cal last year 68-65 at the Oakland Arena in Oakland, California. Sammy Mejia was on fire in that game, scoring 20 points, but the big story was the superb job that Karron Clarke did in shutting down Leon Powe in the second half of the game.
Cal lost a number of key players off of their NCAA tournament team from last year. Superstar Leon Powe, their leading scorer and rebounder, declared for the NBA draft. Steady combo guard Richard Midgely graduated, and a couple of key reserves, C Rod Benson and PG Martin Smith, also graduated. As mentioned earlier, junior center Devon Hardin is out until end of February. Compounding the problem is that earlier in the year, sophomore center Jordan Wilkes suffered a knee injury and was lost for the year. Serbian guard Nikola Knezevic was supposed to provide quality minutes at guard but has yet to see the floor this year due to injury as well.
As such, the Cal team this year is not very deep, and has to rely on three freshmen as part of their rotation, which pretty much only goes seven deep. This has hurt them quite a bit, such as the San Diego game when center DeVon Hardin got into major foul trouble and Cal went from a four point lead to a six point deficit and never was able to come back. They have three losses with a schedule that is peppered with low and mid-major teams, though a few such as SDSU and Nevada (whom they lost to) are strong teams, and have struggled against teams such as Chicago State and Marshall as well.
The big surprise for Cal is the emergence of freshman 6'9" PF Ryan Anderson as the go-to guy on the team. A Top 100-type of player, but not a player that anyone could have imagined would make such an impact so far. Ryan is a deadly shooter from the outside and has the bulk to go inside as well. Anderson is a good rebounder as well, but not great athletically and not a good defensive player at this point. He's averaging 17.3 points and eight rebounds a game, and 45% from the three point line. With Hardin out, it will be interesting to see who Cal puts in to replace him. Freshman center Taylor Harrison has potential but is very raw. The guess here is that the Golden Bears will go to a small lineup with Ryan Anderson at center and 6'5" freshman Patrick Christopher and 6'7" Eric Verneisel sharing the load at forward.
Cal once again this year plays with a three guard offense, but the guards are all big. 6'5" sophomore Theo Robertson is a high-energy player. Doesn't score much, but does the other things well. 6'4" junior Omar Wilkes, the brother of Jordan Wilkes and son of NBA great Jamaal, played mostly as a defensive stopper last year but has improved his shooting quite a bit this year and averages 11.3 points per game. The point guard is 6'4" senior Ayinde Ubaka. He's more of a combo guard. Highly rated in the great Cal class that included Leon Powe, he hasn't really lived up to the billing yet, but is averaging 14.3 points and 5.5 assists per game and should be an all-Pac 10 performer this year. It will be interesting to see Sammy Mejia and Ayinde match up, which undoubtedly they will.
The bench is thin. 6'5" swingman freshman Patrick Christopher was highly rated out of Southern California and plays decent minutes. It was thought that he could start as a freshman but that has not happened yet. He is expected to start Saturday though. Another freshman, 5'8" Jerome Randle should be familar to DePaul fans. The Chicago Hales Franciscan graduate exploded over the summer between his junior and senior years and had DePaul as one of his finalists before choosing Cal. He's ultra-quick and brings a entirely different pace of play as a PG than when Ayinde is in the ball game. Two others off the bench may play some. Algonquin native 6'7" junior Eric Vierneisel has actually seen his playing time dip gradually since his freshman year, but with the injury to Hardin, look for his minutes to increase. Freshman 6'9" Taylor Harrison is very raw, but has gotten some minutes as a result of the frequent foul troubles of Devon Hardin. Look for Harrison to get a lot more minutes as well to take up the slack left by the injury to Hardin.
Keys to the game: DePaul will have to do a good job of keeping a man outside on Anderson at all times, since he is a great shooter. With Hardin out, look for DePaul to mainly counter with their best lineup, which means Chandler, Clarke and Mejia are the forwards. Wilson Chandler should be able to have a great game, as well as Sammy Mejia - those will be two tough matchups for Cal. Will Cliff Clinkscales be able to match up with the quickness of Jerome Randle? Luckily DePaul has had to deal with small guards playing Chicago State earlier this month. The experience and depth of DePaul should be able to prevail against a young Cal team void of much size up front.
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. Exp. Hometown/Last School
1 Ayinde Ubaka G 6-4 200 Sr 3V Oakland, CA/Oakland HS
2 Omar Wilkes G 6-4 185 Jr 1V Los Angeles, CA/Univ. of Kansas/Loyola HS
3 Jerome Randle G 5-10 160 Fr HS Chicago, IL/Hales Franciscan HS
10 Nican Robinson * G 5-10 180 So TR Oakland, CA/UCLA/Oakland Tech HS
12 Thomas Fang * F 6-5 200 Fr HS San Jose, CA/Archbishop Mitty
13 Nikola Knezevic G 6-2 185 So 1V Belgrade, Serbia/Fifth Economy School
14 Eric Vierneisel F 6-7 205 Jr 2V Algonquin, IL/Jacobs HS
15 David Liss * G 6-0 165 Fr HS San Francisco, CA/Branson School
20 Patrick Armstrong * G 6-0 175 Sr HS San Jose, CA/Bellarmine College Prep
23 Patrick Christopher G/F 6-5 210 Fr HS Compton, CA/Dominguez HS
24 Theo Robertson F 6-6 225 So 1V Pittsburg, CA/De La Salle HS
31 Alex Pribble G 6-4 215 Sr 3V Fairfax, CA/Drake HS
32 Taylor Harrison C 6-10 250 Fr HS San Clemente, CA/San Clemente HS
33 Jordan Wilkes C 7-0 230 So 1V Los Angeles, CA/Loyola HS
34 Ryan Anderson F 6-10 235 Fr HS El Dorado Hills, CA/Oak Ridge HS
35 DeVon Hardin C 6-11 235 Jr 2V Newark, CA/Memorial HS
Head Coach: Ben Braun (11th year)
Associate Head Coach: Louis Reynaud
Assistant Coaches: Joe Pasternack, Dennis Gates
* denotes walk-on
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